The healthcare industry as a whole advanced patient-information access with the adoption of robust electronic health record (EHR) platforms. Now, many health systems are setting their sights on advancing clinical communication and collaboration among providers to further optimize patient care.

In the wake of COVID-19, especially, there is an urgency to achieve seamless system-wide clinical collaboration and communication. The thinking: With fewer, yet busier clinical resources being spread across multiple departments or sites, a mobile and cloud-based technology platform can complement the EHR and create the foundation for better clinical collaboration and coverage. 

In fact, healthcare's strategic objectives—such as enhancing value and satisfaction for patients and enabling providers to be more efficient with time and other resources—will demand the use of mobile communication modes to improve workflows and on-call scheduling.

A recognized need for better clinical collaboration

UMass Memorial Health, the largest nonprofit healthcare system in Central Massachusetts, is one such health system that sought to a modernize around a solid digital foundation for clinical communication. Doing so not only would allow the entire health system to better connect its clinical community, but also prepare it for inevitable growth.

With more than 15,500 employees and 2,100 physicians, many of whom are members of UMass Memorial Medical Group and Harrington Physician Services, UMass Memorial Health is at the forefront of the clinical collaboration wave, enabling physicians and nurses to communicate in a secure, seamless capacity through the adoption of a cloud-based clinical collaboration system.

“In reviewing options to improve our clinical communications systems, we found [a mobile clinical collaboration platform] offers superior solutions for clinical communication and collaboration while supporting the overall experience of our clinical staff,” said Eric J. Alper, MD, Chief Clinical Informatics Officer and Chief Quality Officer of UMass Memorial Health. “[C]compatibility with the Epic EHR, ease of use, and opportunity to replace and augment existing solutions with a more collaborative, clinician-oriented solution drove our decision..."

To keep the focus on providing the highest level of patient care, UMass Memorial Health recognized the need for a modern digital collaboration environment that would better support their clinicians for:

  • Messaging
  • Voice
  • Critical alerts
  • On-call schedules
  • Nurse mobility
  • Patient collaboration

And they're not alone in their quest to implement features of a communication platform that physicians and nurses appreciate to streamline workflows. But now a fully integrated, cloud-based clinical collaboration platform can be deployed across an entire health system and accessed on any internet-connected device, furthering the goal of maximizing collaboration to achieve better patient outcomes.

For example, when a patient is admitted to the hospital, staff can communicate with the rest of a
patient’s care team to receive updates on recent care episodes, current medication lists, and other information that improves inpatient care. In addition, the lack of physical constraints allows health systems to engage with a larger network of care—connecting hospital staff to affiliated specialists, independent providers, pharmacy partners, and even non-clinical community partners. This enables communication pathways across care venues and better
supports patients throughout the continuum of care.

The biggest barriers to effective clinical communication

Communication tools often force health systems to change evidence-based clinical workflows or
introduce more administrative tasks. Facing these burdens, staff may resist adoption and revert to inefficient communication methods, such as landlines, pagers, walkie-talkies and handwritten notes. When time is precious, these solutions, however, can lead to more problems.

One of the biggest barriers to effective clinical communication is knowing which personnel fill which roles on a clinical care team. At a large system such as UMass Memorial Health, managing on-call scheduling manually or using outdated methods would be impossible. Staff might otherwise have to look at a call sheet, page an individual and wait for a call back—only to find out that the person isn’t who they need to reach or isn’t even on call. Such delays could add more than an hour to a 12-hour shift, which further contributes to clinician burnout.

A clinical collaboration platform (CCP) syncs with a health system’s scheduling solution, enabling
staff to reach a colleague by sending a message to a role or team, rather than a person by name. This functionality is called role-based communication.

Successfully moving to a clinical collaboration platform

As forward-thinking health systems like UMass Memorial Health know, adopting a clinical collaboration platform goes beyond implementing new software. A successful rollout involves working with a trusted partner to evaluate network readiness to provide the reliability, capacity, and security that clinical staff can count on. 

A few of the device and environmental factors to keep top of mind as your health system considers the addition of a clinical collaboration platform include the following:

  • Ensure that mobile devices in use support messaging, voice, system alerts, and scheduling
  • Select communication devices that can withstand drops, sanitation, and 12 hours of constant use (which includes the ability to hot-swap batteries without losing power)
  • Consider that medical-grade communication tools may initially be more expensive than consumer-grade smart devices, but their longevity gives them a lower overall total cost of ownership.
  • Consider minimizing dead zones, increasing Wi-Fi access points, and maximizing network load

In symplr's experience partnering with leading health systems such as UMass Memorial Health through digital transformations, many organizations face more challenges in project management than with the technology implementation itself. With many providers and staff experiencing “upgrade overload,” organizations can’t afford to cut corners on implementation that could impact adoption. Following proven steps and partnering with a strategic technical and clinical vendor dedicated to helping your organization standardize and streamline clinical communication and workflows, consolidate technology, and connect your clinical community is essential.

Learn more about the power of the symplr Clinical Collaboration platform.

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